Last year was one of the most deadly years on the roads in recent memories, leading the town police department to take action and ramp up enforcement on the roads.
It's an initiative that really began in 2012, during which the department successfully undertook increased drunken driving enforcement. In 2013, according to Chief Ed Ecker's annual report, the department will focus on combating two other problems on the road -- driver inattention and aggressive drivers.
The department made 257 arrests for DWI related offenses in 2012, 101 more than the 156 in 2011. Fifteen of those arrests were made by outside officers working in the town's jurisdiction under the Suffolk County District Attorney's DWI Task Force, which began at the beginning of summer.
"This was a significant and substantial increase in enforcement by the members of the uniform patrol division," Ecker said in an annual report released last week.
And while the total amount of accidents was down slightly — 870 versus 886 for the prior year — accidents with personal injury were up from 127 in 2011 to 140 in 2012.
Though there is a correlation between the increase in accidents with serious injuries, there was no one explanation for the high number of fatalities on the roads; seven within the town police jurisdiction (Please note, the attached spreadsheet reports the figure as eight, which include the death of a man in a Wainscott fire).
Only one of the fatalities — a single motorcycle accident in May — was alcohol-related. One was a suicide, two were caused by medical-related issues, and one was a hit-and-run. Ecker has said the only trend appears to be driver inattention.
The Village of East Hampton investigated a fatal accident, determining that driver inattention was the cause, as well.
Ecker wants to try and reduce the number of fatal and serious physical injury accidents by looking for aggressive driving and distracted driving, not just those who may be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The department plans to use federal and state grants, such as the Sustained Traffic Enforcement Program, and Buckle Up New York, to help fund ramped up enforcement in targeted areas.
Meanwhile, off the roads, Ecker said the department did a better job in handling the quality of life issues facing the town, particularly in Montauk, during the 2012 summer season.
The department hired three more seasonal officers and increased State Liquor Authority-related enforcement, the chief said. Parking, taxi regulations, pedestrian safety, noise, overcrowding, litter and underage drinking were all areas of focus, he said.
The summer did indeed see an increase in town ordinance summonses and parking summonses, and arrests, as well as a decrease in assaults and altercations associated with quality of life issues, Ecker said.
The breakdown reported is:
- 334 arrests for the Penal law (388 in 2011)
- 5,197 Vehicle and Traffic law arrests (4,753)
- 546 town ordinances issued (508 in 2011)
- 6,516 parking summons (6,180 in 2011)
Other highlights that were met in 2012 include:
- Cutting the amount of personnel time lost taken following on-duty injuries among the 62 officers, which fell from 22 in 2011 to 15 in 2012
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- The department earned re-accreditation with the Division of Criminal Justice Services in April 2012, becoming the first department in New York State to be assessed under the new LEAP Audit program.
The department's goals for 2013 include:
- Increase training and improve coordinated enforcement efforts for SLA/Alcohol Beverage Control violations, while increasing the accountability of licensed premises within town
- Evaluate and improve department's Action Response Plans for all schools in town, and ensuring all officers receive updated active shooter training